Southern California wildfire forces evacuation of 80,000 people

The Blue Cut Fire burns in San Bernardino County on Wednesday as fire officials work to extinguish the flames. Officials said more than 80,000 people have been affected by mandatory evacuations in the area and several roads have been closed. Photo courtesy San Bernardino County Fire Department

CAJON PASS, Calif., Aug. 17 (UPI) — A massive wildfire in Southern California has grown into a major problem, authorities said Wednesday, and has now triggered a state of emergency and forced evacuations of more than 80,000 people.

The Blue Cut Fire began early Tuesday in the San Bernardino National Forest and quickly grew to more than 30,000 acres in about 24 hours. More than a thousand firefighters are working to contain the blaze but have so far found almost no success, officials said.

Tuesday, the fire triggered limited evacuations and closed stretches of two major highways nearby.

By Wednesday, greater stretches of California Highway 138 and Interstate 15, the major route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, were closed.

Authorities also greatly expanded the mandatory evacuation zones. More than 82,000 residents in about 34,000 homes have been ordered to leave the area.

By Wednesday, more than 1,300 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with 152 engines, 18 crews, eight air tankers, two Very Large Air Tankers, and eight helicopters, including night-flying choppers.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County.

Several agencies are assisting in the firefighting efforts, including the National Forest Service, Cal Fire and the California Highway Patrol. A National Type 1 Incident Management Team has also been requested.

Six firefighters became trapped by the flames Wednesday while trying to defend homes, officials also said.

“Firefighters were able to shelter in place within a nearby structure, but two firefighters sustained minor injuries. Both firefighters were transported to a local hospital where they were treated and released and are now back on the fire line defending structures,” officials said in a news release.

The Blue Cut Fire began around 11 a.m. Tuesday. The cause is still under investigation.


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